Common Traits of Highly Sensitive People or Empaths

There are many tests online that ask questions then tell you what kind of Empath you are or if you are even close to being an Empath. Some people may think that they fall into the category of being an Empath when really, they are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

Here are a few definitions for you:

  • empathy – The act of identifying, feeling or understanding vicariously what others are feeling or experiencing, through personal experience and personal references. Every human has this capability. This is the original definition of empathy in its purest form.
  • Empathy – The proper noun, is the identifying, feeling or understanding vicariously what others are feeling or experiencing, without the utilization of personal experience or references. A person capable of this can be labeled an Empath and they are Empathic.
  • Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – A person who has a heightened ability of all 5 senses; hearing, sight, sound, taste, touch. Because of these senses they can understand the environment around them much more precisely than other people. Empaths have heightened senses, like an HSP, in addition to the ability of Empathy. A HSP sometimes confuses the relating of their feelings, to what others are possibly feeling around them, by referring to their own personal experiences. So they act out the reactions of others with them and mistakenly think they are Empathic. When all they really are doing is having basic empathy for the other person.  All Genetic Empaths are HSP. Not all HSP’s, are Empathic. Not all NDE Empaths or Adaptive Empaths are HSP.
  • Genetic Empath – A person born with the abilities to be empathetic, intuitive and psychic in addition to other unseen abilities. One of their parents or both parents also were born with these abilities. These abilities are common throughout their families’ generations. A Genetic Empath has had their abilities since birth. They experience life through the filter of their abilities. Because a Genetic Empath is electrically wired differently from an average person, they will always have their abilities. It is a permanent part of their genetic makeup. If they should experience any traumatic emotional experience, a Genetic Empath most times will subconsciously begin to ignore the sensory input from their abilities. This will create the illusion that they have shut off their abilities. This leads to the Genetic Empath rediscovering their abilities later on in life. With proper guidance, they can begin to heal from their trauma, and start to perceive sensory input on a conscience level again. Most Genetic Empaths will feel that their life purpose is to help everyone and everything.
  • Near Death Experience (NDE) Empath – A person who was not born with the abilities to be empathetic, intuitive and psychic in addition to other unseen abilities. They have lived life without extra perceptual input. Then at some point in their lives, they die and then are brought back to life. While dead, they have the experience of meeting with God. No matter what they remember from their meeting, they most often come back to life with Empath-like abilities. And, sometimes their abilities are all working at once, causing extreme perceptual overload of their senses. After some time, the overload calms down and they are able to function much like a Genetic Empath, as if this is how they have been their entire lives. Most NDE Empaths will also feel that their life purpose is to help everyone and everything. Whether or not their electrical wiring has also been changed to be similar to that of a Genetic Empath remains to be seen.
  • Adaptive Empath – A person who was not born with the abilities to be empathetic, intuitive and psychic in addition to other unseen abilities. They have lived life without extra perceptual input. Then at some point in their lives, they begin to practice and develop abilities such as being empathetic, intuitive or psychic. Depending on the amount and duration of practice, an Adaptive Empath may or may not continue to have their abilities.
    Another type of Adaptive Empath, is a person who instead of purposely seeking to develop abilities, has sought to learn a modality of alternative healing. During this process empathetic, intuitive, psychic or additional other unseen abilities may begin to develop. A third type of Adaptive Empath would be women who have given birth. During pregnancy, the architecture of women’s brains changes in ways that last for at least 2 years. In particular, gray matter shrinks in areas involved in processing and responding to social signals. This may mean that new mothers’ brains are more efficiently wired in areas that allow them to respond to their infant’s needs or to detect threatening people in their environments. Basically, able to have empathy for not only their children, but for others around them. Mothers can have this change seem more the norm during their childbearing years. No studies have yet to be published to explain if the mother’s brains go back to pre-childbearing conditions.
    It is commonly taught that anyone can become an Empath. I would submit that the statement be changed to say that anyone can become an Adaptive Empath except for Genetic and NDE Empaths.

I have compiled a list of attributes that can be closely related to describing HSP and Empathic people. I will over time add to or maybe even remove items from the list. For now I think the items in this list best describe HSP and Empathic people. Please use this list as a guide only. Results will be different for each person as each trait can be situation specific. I hope you enjoy the journey of discovering who you really are.

A=Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and some Empath Traits       B=Empath Only Traits
1. Physical       2. Emotional/Social

(also applies to Genetic and NDE Empaths, but not to all Adaptive Empaths)

  • A1 You feel and perceive energy in many forms and various degrees most all of the time. You notice finer details because you are sensitive to noise, colors and other stimuli. You notice changes in your environment before most people around you do.
  • A1 You are easily overwhelmed by over-sensory input. Bright lights, loud noises, rough textures and strong odors hurt and distract you. You also feel pain much more intensely. And you startle easily.
  • A1 You hate crowded public places such as stores, malls, concerts, large events or just too many people in the same area. There is just too much input from all of the people around you and it is confusing and hurts.
  • A2 You have the tendency to be more reactive than normal in emotional situations. You are often accused of being overly dramatic or told that you need to calm down. Social situations are very uncomfortable and can lead to anxiety. You are mostly shy and prefer your own company.
  • A2 You feel your emotions more deeply and you are more emotional. You process things on a deeper level. Sometimes because of this you relate your feelings to what others are possibly feeling around you. So you try to act out the reactions of others with them. Sometimes you cry because they are crying. Crying comes easily to you.
  • A2 Reading about, watching or experiencing violence, cruelty, calamities or others misfortunes is very difficult and emotionally overwhelming for you. Because this is overwhelming to your senses you relate to easily to what you are seeing. It feels too real.
  • A2 You are more polite and caring of others because you easily notice their emotional states and physical postures. This can lead you to think you are feeling what they are feeling. But you truly do not completely know what they feel. You are really relating their situation to a similar situation in your past.
  • A2 If what you are doing is not interesting you can become distracted and get easily labeled as lazy. It is hard to concentrate on something that is not your passion. You finish work in your own time, not according to someone else’s time expectations.
  • A2 Doing too much at once is overwhelming and you tend to be more of a perfectionist. You are good at tasks that involve observing minor differences. Scientists, detectives, caretakers, parents, teachers, psychologists, etc. You work alone better than in a team environment.
  • A2 You enjoy adventure, travel and feeling free, but only when you can visit places where there are not many people. You have a very powerful imagination. You are very creative. This makes you talented in many of the various forms of the arts. From music to performance to visual.
  • A2 Sudden life changes are difficult. More certainty with your day-to-day schedule creates comfort.
  • A2 You feel attracted to wanting to help others. Your ideal job allows you to serve others and to help them with their work or dealing with finding meaning for their life. You are curious and because you are focused, you desire to find ways to help improve and progress yourself and society.
  • A2 You find holistic, metaphysical and the unseen attractive. You desire to know much more all the time.
  • A2 Decisions take longer to make because you can feel possible outcomes through your sensitivity.


1. Physical        4. Empath Ability
2. Emotional/Social     5. Empath Relationships
3. Psychic Ability
  • B1 You experience and feel the physical pains of other people. Like illness, injuries, body aches and pains. You feel the pains of those you are closest to the most. And sometimes it occurs over large distances.
  • B1 You hate crowded public places such as stores, malls, concerts, large events or just too many people in the same area. There is too much input from all of the people around you and it is confusing and hurts. Avoiding people is what you do. The further away from people, especially at the end of the day is what feels good to you. It can sometimes make you feel crazy because of all of the emotions. You are unsure which ones are yours and which ones belong to others. Sometimes this overwhelm makes it difficult for you to even stay present. So you become shy and sometimes you are labeled an introvert. Downtime is required after social gatherings.
  • B1 You have trouble concentrating when other people are around, but you’re able to concentrate better when you’re by yourself. The thoughts of others are not distracting you from your own thoughts.
  • B1 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgia Encephalomyelitis), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Lower Back Issues, Ulcers and Stomach Digestive issues have plagued you your entire life. By taking in others emotions all the time and not getting rid of them correctly you create these issues. Sleep often helps but never fully heals.
  • B1 You have an addictive personality. Often your body feels strange and full of yucky energies. So you use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, computer games etc. . . to help you to deal with the emotions that are running wild.
  • B1 You are overweight and you have fought this battle most of your life. The extra weight is your way of protecting against the emotions that are attaching to you.
  • B1 Being outdoors and in nature always feels great. When you are not hiding, being outside helps your mind clear. Animals, plants, trees, water, wind, the sun and the moon all have a feeling to you of peace and joy.
  • B1 You completely hate and abhor being startled or scared by someone. All of your senses become overwhelmed and all emotions feel betrayed because of the falsehood of the threat. You become extremely emotional and angry afterwards. Haunted houses and surprise birthday parties are not your thing.
  • B1 You often find it hard to get to sleep. Sometimes you wake up for no reason at all during the night and if your mind gets active, you take a while to get back to sleep.
  • B2 You are a walking lie detector. If anyone lies to you, you can feel it in your gut. You can also tell when they are not being honest with themselves. People sometimes can feel this and avoid you so you cannot feel their lies. Yet somehow, you still know. You seek for the whole picture or truth in all things. Especially now, since feeling like you are something more than what you always thought you were.
  • B2 When emotionally overloaded, you cannot fake your way through any situation. Being fake about how you feel irritates you. Setting boundaries is tough because the emotions of other people impacts you deeply. It seems that, no matter what you do, it’s always lose-lose for you. Either you stand up for yourself, and get overwhelmed by the negative reactions of others, or you do what they want and don’t feel good about yourself.
  • B2 You often feel like an alien. Like you are an outcast and not a part of normal society or even this planet. You fear that you might not belong anywhere. You struggle to relax in the company of others. You only relax when you are extremely comfortable and at ease with those surrounding you.
  • B2 You are always cheering for the person who is struggling. People who are suffering, in emotional pain or being bullied get your attention. You desire to help all. You feel responsible for the well-being of those around you. In addition to wanting to help others, you connect with them emotionally, especially when you see they are suffering. This leads you to wanting to heal them or at least try to make their world better.
  • B2 You are very persistent when looking for answers and studying subjects. You keep going till you have answers. Sometimes you forget to do other important work because of this.
  • B2 You are obsessive about having organization in your life. Clutter is not allowed. Chaotic surroundings make for an unorganized mind. You have enough sensations and emotions to muddle through without cluttering your mind further.
  • B2 You are caught daydreaming often. The daydreaming helps you to deal with other people’s emotions. It is an escape for you.
  • B2 You are a free spirit and hate confining rules. This creates resentment and you shut down at times because of this. If you feel suppressed by others it creates a hostile moment.
  • B2 Narcissistic people can be very hard for you to be around. Narcissists make you seem wrong, even when you are right – always an up and down roller coaster. You begin to question if it’s you that has the problem. You hate to be around people who are egotistical or enjoy putting others down to make themselves look better.
  • B2 Days, seasons, years and holidays have their own specific feelings to you. You can feel which day of the week it is. Holidays especially are full of great emotional feeling for you. People often tease you about your over-indulgence during the holidays. You often remember the past according to the emotions you were feeling at the time.
  • B2 You require personal quiet time or down time of at least 8 to 10 or more hours each day. If you do not get it, you are less friendly, abrupt and incapable of normal social skills.
  • B2 You often don’t know how to take care of your own needs. You often say yes and don’t think of yourself, putting the needs of others first. You usually spend most of your energies on everyone else and are too tired to meet your own needs. And if you are a mother or single parent, this gets magnified and is much worse.
  • B2 You have trouble knowing what you want and need. To figure that out, you need to be by yourself for a while. But still it is much easier to voice what others want from you than to say what you want for yourself.
  • B3 Sometimes, you have in the palm of your hands, what feels like warm energy that you need to let go of or release. It doesn’t itch or hurt. It is just energy that needs to find its purpose.
  • B3 You see movement out of the corner of your eyes, you smell unexplained odors or you hear voices, all from unseen sources. Rather than have people call you crazy, you decide to keep this to yourself, not knowing that there are others like you.
  • B3 You are sensitive to used things. Antiques, clothes, houses – anything that has the energies of its prior owner. These energies are uncomfortable to you so you avoid touching these things.
  • B3 You feel strange sensations from electromagnetic devices, wireless devices and cell towers.
  • B3 You dream vivid dreams. You remember many of those dreams and they often replay during your waking hours. Waking up in the morning can sometimes be very jarring and abrupt. This is because you were feeling those dreams and it felt like they were real, but now you are having to transition back to reality. The transition goes better if you are given time to fully allow all of your senses and emotions adjust to reality.
  • B3 You can hear in your mind the thoughts of trees, animals and other members of nature. You connect with all of these and identify easily with the emotional and physical pain that any of them are going through.
  • B3 You know about events or possible outcomes ahead of time. You can feel when something good or bad will happen. Often you are right and wish people would listen to you during those moments when you feel that information.
  • B4 People often feel better after having been around you. Your energies lift them up and help them feel better. But because you have absorbed their lower vibrational energies you feel more tired or more emotionally unstable.
  • B4 You know and feel when someone is thinking about you. Weather they are right next to you or on the other side of the world. And often you even feel what they are feeling.
  • B4 You have been labeled a good listener. People seem to trust you more. They feel like you really care about what they are saying. But you feel worse afterwards because you have absorbed their lower vibrational energies – you feel more tired. It can be very hard sometimes to listen, especially if they are sucking your energy while doing it.
  • B4 You are a natural leader. You enjoy being in-charge. This is because you can feel the emotions of the group as a whole. You work hard to make sure that everybody in the group is getting their desired emotional needs met. When you do this successfully, you become the one the people in the group want to follow.
  • B4 Sometimes when you walk past a person or even look into their eyes you receive information about them. Usually it is very private and embarrassing to that person or even to you. This can be unnerving because you don’t know what to do with the information. Some who have this happen realize later on that it is not normal and not everyone has this talent.
  • B4 You take on the traits of others, acting them out, at times when you are around them. Then when they leave you become your true self again. This can bother you as you feel bad for having not been your true self.
  • B4 You often take full responsibility for how others treat you and for anything that goes wrong in relationships. You have a great amount of compassion and can clearly see other people’s emotional baggage. So you make many excuses for why people behave as they do. You try to keep the peace at all cost. This costs you emotionally and physically on an energetic scale.
  • B5 Relationships often move too fast and can become intense very quickly as you connect on a deep, intimate level very quickly due to the ability to absorb your partner’s energy and emotions.
  • B5 In relationships, you require distance and regular periods of solitude. Sometimes even when your partner is needing the opposite. This creates friction and conflict which shuts you down even more.
  • B5 In relationships you put your partner’s needs before yourself, as though their pleasure and happiness is more important than your own. You usually spend most of your energies on them and are too tired to meet your own needs.